WACO — There will be a new state champion in Class 5A Division I. And it very well may be College Station.
In a showdown between state-ranked teams on Friday, the Cougars engineered a touchdown drive with 8:53 to play, then hung on thanks to some ferocious running from Marquise Collins to knock off defending champ Ryan, 26-21, in the Class 5A Division I state quarterfinal at Baylor’s McLane Stadium in Waco.
College Station forced three interceptions defensively while Collins finished with 230 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries. His third score was the difference maker, as Ryan failed to do anything with its final two drives.
Ryan, playing in its seventh straight state quarterfinal, had previously played in the last two state title games.
“It was a great game. Hats off to [College Station]; they’re a really good team,” Ryan coach Dave Henigan said. “I’m proud of our kids’ effort. They could have stopped playing when they went up 20-7. We found the way to take the lead, then they answered. We had chances to answer, but they’re a good team. It just didn’t go our way.”
Ryan (12-2) hadn’t lost more than one game in a single season since its 5-5 campaign in 2014. And the Raiders nearly avoided it happening again on Friday. Trailing 20-7 early in the second half, they marched 79 yards in six plays. The drive was capped by a ridiculous 36-yard sliding catch in the end zone by Texas pledge Austin Jordan.
That score trimmed the College Station lead to 20-14. After a College Station punt, Ryan popped the Cougars with another big play from a two-way star, as 5-star linebacker Anthony Hill Jr. came in at running back and broke loose for a 59-yard score to give Ryan a 21-20 lead. It was Ryan’s first lead since the 4:36 mark of the first half.
Hill finished with four carries for 62 yards and the lone score. Kalib Hicks added 126 yards on 19 carries and another score.
But as was the case all night, Ryan’s near-impenetrable defense struggled to stop Collins. The Cougars went to their bruising back early and often on its ensuing drive, marching 41 yards in six plays to take the lead for good.
Ryan’s next drive ended in a punt. The Raiders got the ball back again but turned the ball over on downs when Hicks was stopped a yard short on a fourth-down-and-3 play from their own 45.
“It was a matter of making plays. We dialed up a fade ball and other things early in the game that didn’t go our way — but those [late ones] did,” Henigan said. “We just made way too many mistakes. You can’t win that way this time of year.”
Ryan’s early mistakes put them behind the eight ball from the start. That included three first-half interceptions, including one on the game’s first possession as the Raiders were driving into Cougar territory.
Even with those miscues, Ryan’s defense kept it in the game. College Station only had a 13-7 lead with 2:31 to play in the first half. The Cougars had the ball in Ryan territory again in the closing seconds of the first half. But back-to-back sacks from Hill and MarQuice Hill II pushed them out of field goal range to keep the deficit at six.
Ryan got the ball first to open the second half but was forced to punt. Collins appeared to have put the nail in Ryan’s coffin on the ensuing drive when he broke loose for a 41-yard touchdown run.
But that’s when Ryan’s offense came alive and made things interesting down the stretch.
Ryan finished with 356 total yards. It was the Raiders’ first loss in a state quarterfinal since 2015.
“It’s hard right now, but at some point, you’ll step back and say 12-2 and go to the region final isn’t too shabby,” Henigan said. “Those seniors who started as sophomores have been on one of the best runs in the history of this program — play for two state championships and lose three games in three years. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Their heart, effort … that’s all you can ask for. I can’t say enough about our kids.”